Ben Simmons answered critics of his scoring output on multiple levels Wednesday night, having a breakout offensive performance while also snapping back at those who question his approach.
Simmons had an explosive first quarter, scoring 12 points to help his Philadelphia 76ers open an early lead on the Washington Wizards. He ended up with 22 points, nine rebounds and eight assists without needing to step on the floor in the fourth quarter as the game turned into a rout, with the 76ers winning 120-95 to take a 2-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.
In Sunday’s Game 1, which was played much tighter, Simmons had 15 assists and 15 rebounds but just six points. That unbalanced line led to some negative feedback, particularly in Philly, where fans are known for their edge. It led to his coach Doc Rivers calling out 76ers fans by saying, “If you guys don’t know the treasure you have by now, then shame on everyone.”
With the Wizards sticking close to Joel Embiid, who had 30 points in Game 1, and Tobias Harris, who had 37, Simmons found a lot of space. With a big size advantage on Washington’s guards, Simmons punished them in the post and piled up points in the paint as he made 11 of 15 shots overall.
Then he had something to say.
“I’m not trying to stick to anybody in Philly,” Simmons said. “I thought it was pretty hard to get 15 assists and 15 rebounds in the NBA in the playoffs. I thought that was pretty impressive. And we won. What y’all want? You want to win? For me, I’m here to win and I’m doing what I need to do to help my team win, whatever it is. I’m not trying to prove anybody wrong or anything like that. I’m trying to do my job to win.”
Simmons said he appreciated Rivers coming to his defense and pointed out Harris and Embiid combining for 67 points in Game 1 was crucial to the victory. Just as his taking advantage of extra space afforded him was important Wednesday.
“That’s the point of basketball, right? People who have it going, you have to give them the ball. I’m not surprised Doc said that because Doc knows the game,” he said. “A lot of these people who are saying things haven’t played the game.”
Simmons, who came into the game averaging 14.6 points in 23 career postseason games, had his highest-scoring playoff game since he put up 31 against the Brooklyn Nets in 2018. His 15 rebounds and 15 assists in Game 1 were playoff career highs.
“I told him, ‘You’ve got all the space and all the time in the world. Just attack,'” said Embiid, who matched Simmons with a team-high 22 points in Game 2. “He’s physical and he’s athletic and he can make plays.”